Charles: We first met at a kesha at ACK St Paul’s mother church in Kabete. I was then in a committee that was responsible for conducting keshas. It was in the wee hours of the morning when I first saw Mary. I felt drawn to her and thought she would be worth pursuing.
Mary: I used to see him but never thought much about him. He used to interact with the older congregants and I thought he was very mature. When he greeted me that morning I didn’t think much about it. In another kesha, I was shocked after he requested me to show him my photos. I politely declined which he understood.
Mary: Unfazed, we continued meeting in church functions until one day he came to preach at my rural church. After the service, I was among some few ladies requested to escort him to where lunch was being served. The other ladies were really not interested but I was ecstatic. I viewed it as an opportunity to serve the man of God. After the service, I walked up to him and asked him if I could carry his bag and show him the way, he was grateful and looked quite happy.
Charles: The Kenya Anglican Youth Organisation (KAYO) would organise camps, conferences and workshops where youth from different parishes would meet. It was in such functions that we got to know each other better.
Mary: We started getting closer. He would write me letters of encouragement which I still have to date. He would call me using a phone booth which I found interesting and romantic. I remember we had to plan in advance on when to call. I would then have to wait at the booth for his call. Sometimes he would call when I wasn’t at the booth, which would force people to come looking for me at home to go and answer his call.
Taking things to the next level…
Charles: We courted for two years before I proposed to her. I invited her to St Marks Church in Westlands where I was an intern with a clear agenda of proposing. After our lunch date in town, I proposed to her of which she said yes. I escorted her to the bus stage while carrying her bag and allowed her to board first.
Mary: When he carried my bag and allowed me to board the matatu first, I was impressed. That small gesture not only spoke volumes of his chivalry, but I felt that he was very mature and caring, traits which attracted me to him. I had also observed his character during the many church functions we had attended together. He definitely had the qualities I was looking for in a husband.
Charles: We got married on December 22, 2001, at St Marks Church in Westlands. I was 30 years old. Our wedding was surprisingly a very smooth journey. I had just been promoted to a pastor and our congregants were excited and willing to support us. We thank God we were not only able to supersede our initial budget, but were sorted in terms of logistics. As a pastor, we were given the venue free by the church. Our members also offered their cars to be used as part of our entourage for which we remain eternally grateful.
Mary: I was 23 years old when we got married. It was a wonderful day and we didn’t experience major challenges. We had a budget of Ksh136,000 and managed to raise Ksh141,000. It was such an honor for the late Archbishop David Gitari to preside over our wedding.
First-year of marriage…
Charles: It was something that I was looking forward to. I wanted to quickly settle down and start my family. We were both passionate about ministry, which helped us get closer.
Mary: Marriage was a new territory for both of us and it came with its ups and downs. We both had to keep learning and accommodating each other. We got our first-born in our second year in marriage.
Need to learn…
Mary (laughing): When we came from honeymoon, my husband asked me to cook for him some chapatis. To be honest, I stayed a long time without cooking. I went to the kitchen and attempted to make them. To cut a long story short, I cooked hard chapattis which he ate but I could see he didn’t enjoy them. I apologized and confessed I was not good at cooking chapattis which he understood.
Charles: In my effort to prepare for marriage, I exposed myself to many things, cooking being one of them. I understood and was not angry at her. I knew that she felt stressed about the situation especially knowing I was a great cook.
Mary: That experience really challenged me. I took up cooking classes, which have sharpened my culinary skills to great levels.
Charles: Her willingness to reach out and learn how to cook really impressed me. I am now a happy man because she learnt how to cook and we now eat a minimum of three course meals.
Supporting husband’s call in ministry…
Mary: As a career woman I have transitioned to be able to complement my husband’s call in ministry. I respect Charles as my husband, father of my children and priest of our home. My husband’s calling is very important and I have learnt to give him the space he needs to be the best at what he does. From early on in marriage, I resolved to find my space in his life. My training as a psychologist has enabled me to be self-aware. It has also come in handy as I am in charge of mentoring young mothers in our church. That is the space I feel I can add value to most in his calling.
Charles: Mary’s programme development and implementation skills have played a crucial role in my ministry. She has been able to come up with unique programmes in church, which have benefitted our congregants. The men in our church have good reports on the impact of the young mother’s ministry. I commend her for the marvelous job she is doing.
Charles: Our career growth and development gives me much joy. We both clearly understand each other’s calling and always give the other space to grow. For instance, Mary has supported me in my academic pursuit. She was always there when I was pursuing my degree in Theology at Kenya Methodist University. She also held our family down when I was doing my Master’s in Leadership at Pan African Christian University. I am currently at Catholic University of Eastern Africa where I am studying Master’s in Business Administration, specializing in Strategic Management. I am at project stage.
Mary: I am always excited when we get to travel together during the church organised trips. Such trips not only expose us, but provide a powerful opportunity for us to learn together and grow closer.
Charles: The trips are within the wider strategic plan of the church under the leadership of Bishop Joel Waweru to empower and expose leaders. We are grateful that the church deems it beneficial to provide such opportunities, which enable us to be more knowledgeable and real when preaching.
Mary: In 2016, I was diagnosed with two thyroid nodules with the only solution being surgery. This was traumatising because I had undergone three Caesarean sections and couldn’t fathom undergoing another surgery. Charles really prayed with me and encouraged me during this difficult time. I finally faced my fears and after confiding in a friend, she recommended Professor Adwok, a thyroid specialist, who performed the surgery. I have learnt to appreciate everything I have, trust in God and share problems.
Charles: It was a difficult time but God kept us through it all. We have learnt to identify and appreciate our support systems.
In times of conflict…
Mary (chuckles): When we were young in marriage, one of the things that brought about conflict was money. I used to splurge while my husband was more frugal in his spending thanks to his background in accounting. I would not understand why he would always ask for a budget when we were out shopping. With time I have come to appreciate the need to plan our finances and stick to a budget to achieve mutually beneficial goals.
Charles: We are each aware of the other’s financial state which helps us steer away from wrong expectations and misunderstandings. We also communicate when helping those in need especially in regard to finances.
What you love most about each other…
Mary: I have many reasons why I love Charles but allow me to single out his reliability. He is a stable support system. I remember Charles was the one who encouraged me to resign from my formal job to start my own firm called Peculiar Life Consultancy as well as family business. He assured me that he would take over a loan I was servicing at my job, which was stressing me. I felt so relieved and loved.
Charles: Her way of thinking is something that I value. Mary is also neat and organized. She always gives me feedback on my sermons, which I always take positively and use to polish my leadership skills.
Values that guide your marriage…
Charles: Our key pillar is prayer and communication. These have kept us strong all these years.
Mary: We respect each other’s space. I never nag him when he has sessions with the congregants. My husband also understands and accepts my career, which involves a lot of travelling and interaction with different people.
Mary: We have three sons – John Mark in Mang’u High School, Ruel Njoroge, 12, and Jude Kirathimo, five years. It has been exciting raising them. Initially, it wasn’t easy adapting to parenthood but with the help of friends and family, we have managed. Our parenting style is more intentional where we are actively involved at every stage of our children’s lives. We have open communication lines, which, makes it easy for our children to trust us with anything. I also teach them how to cook and help around with chores.
Charles: During courtship, we had candid conversations on the number of children we wanted. Respect, hard work and responsibility are strong values that we have inculcated in our children. Intentional parenting for us means that we have clear goals of how we would want to raise our children and actually achieving such goals.
Mary: In the few cases where we have had indiscipline, we take time to analyse and come up with the best solution. We individually take time to enjoy days out with our sons where we talk and are free with them. As parents we always take our children to school as this gives us the chance to bond with them.
Charles: Our children are our greatest investment and we take them seriously. After all is said and done, they are the ones we will be left with. We are keen to identify their strengths and allow them to be themselves. Our first-born is quite philanthropic while the second one is already exhibiting strong entrepreneurial traits.
Advice to young married couples…
Mary: Couples should take time to understand each other and avoid comparing their relationship with others as this brings about tension and conflict. Keep learning your spouse, adjust and accept them for who they are.
Charles: Young couples need to understand that it takes time to build a strong and successful marriage. Honesty and transparency are key ingredients in relationships.